VoxWare Customers are Speechless

VoxWare could be one of many SOA success stories if only we could get its customers to speak up.

VoxWare makes and sells SOA-based software that its clients use to process orders and check inventory, among other things. The software is speech-driven, including both voice recognition and text-to-speech. It enables workers to do their jobs hands-free, by wearing a headset instead of carrying around a clipboard. They interact with the system by speaking, and the system talks back to them, guiding them through the steps of their job and verifying their input.

We've been trying to publish a case study about one of VoxWare's customers for a few weeks now, with no luck. Their public relations people put us in touch with a couple customers, but the customers aren't being vocal, at least to us. The customer silence is due primarily to the fact that they are reluctant to share details about their proprietary technology. We're working on re-wording our questions to get these folks to be a bit more talkative.

It is a shame that it's taking so long, because it sounds like VoxWare could be the poster child for a successful implementation of an SOA-approach to business problems. VoxWare publishes a number of their own case studies, all of which are very impressive, but it would be nice to be able to do our own objective piece.

Here's why I'm anxious to see a case study. According to Scott Yetter, VoxWare President and CEO, one of the benefits they reap from SOA is the ability to customize the software not only according to the business processes of a company, but right down to the personal habits of the workers.

This is how software development often works in this kind of relationship. The customer describes the business problem in detail, even specifying every step that a worker will take in doing his job. The developers deliver a solution. The customer tries to use the software and then comes back and says, "Okay you delivered exactly what we asked for; now here's what we really need." Then the developers have to go back and redesign the software.

I don't know if VoxWare's solutions can avoid this conundrum, but VoxWare used SOA to make it easier to adjust the software to individual preferences. SOA enables developers to avoid building an inflexible monolithic package that demands users to adjust to the way the software works. Actually, this strength is not limited to SOA, it works for any well-designed system that is broken up into components that handle pieces of a complete business process. Thus, SOA is delivering on the promises of component-based architecture. If you design the services correctly, you can string them together in a variety of ways and still expect them all to work together. This lets you adjust the software to work the way people work, rather than expect people to adjust their work habits to match the software. The end result should be greater productivity and fewer errors, and that's what VoxWare's case studies seem to reflect.

Whether or not VoxWare is as big a success story as their own case studies imply is something we can't confirm or deny without doing our own investigation. But we'll keep trying to get VoxWare's customers to talk to us. There is a dearth of success stories about SOA, which is sad, considering the potential benefits. Keep your fingers crossed, because we hope to find them and bring them to you.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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